George Soros has done it all--from surviving Nazi occupation of Budapest, Hungary, where he was born, to living under communism, to establishing a network of philanthropic organizations.
But Soros has managed to take on yet another position over the last few months: activist for the preservation of an American open society. In the latest of his eight books, The Bubble of American Supremacy: Correcting the Misuse of American Power, Soros argues that the current U.S. administration has based its foreign policy on military might rather than principles of international law.
Soros, alongside a panel of Duke faculty, spoke about his book's views concerning the presidential election to Tuesday's overflowing crowd in Reynolds Theater.
"After devoting the last 15 years of my life to open society, we have to focus on the U.S.," Soros said in a press conference before his speech. "I believe the Bush administration is leading us in a very dangerous direction."
But Bush's present policies, Soros said, are not the ones that got him elected. The current "Bush Doctrine," as Soros called it, consists of two factors--undivided support for the military at home and the right to intervene abroad.
"[The Bush Doctrine] is not consistent with values of open society and cannot possibly be accepted by the rest of the world," Soros said.
Soros made explicit that he is using both his expertise in international affairs and his money to try to prevent President Bush's re-election. Soros has already donated $12.5 million to the Democratic effort, a figure that he says is likely to rise.
Speaking about the Democratic candidates, Soros expressed his support for Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), whom Soros thinks will stack up well against President Bush.
"Kerry is an excellent candidate," Soros said. "He unites the Democratic party... [and] as a war hero [he] stacks up well against [an opponent] who wants to be a war president."
He also addressed the worth of having North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) as a possible running mate.
"Edwards would bring a considerable value to the ticket," Soros said. "[Kerry] needs a running mate who has appeal to the South."
Among the panel, which Provost Peter Lange moderated, political science professor Peter Feaver provided the strongest opposition to Soros' ideas.
Feaver disputed the military-minded image of President Bush, stating that some of his most important actions have been non-military. He added that Bush has developed "remarkable cooperation" with China and that his military actions reflect necessary reactions to problems which had proliferated throughout the 1990s.
Feaver said that Soros himself proves proof that the open society he seeks already exists: even the fiercest opposition at home has a voice.
The other two panelists--Sanford Institute of Public Policy director Bruce Jentleson and James B. Duke professor of political science Robert Keohane--spoke more favorably of Soros.
"The strategy [Soros] proposes is realism rather than idealism," Jentleson said.
Although supporting Soros' position on war in Iraq, Jentleson noted that force is a route that nations sometimes must take as an early resort, not only as a last resort.
Keohane also described war in Iraq as a "debacle." As a way to prevent further disagreements between the United States and the United Nations over military policy, Keohane suggested that the U.N. institute a democratic council to formulate a process for appealing a deadlocked security council--an idea he said he put forward in the spirit of Soros' work.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.